Chris McRae played a rugged, tough style of throwback hockey, very similar to that of his older brother Basil, who also played in the NHL with seven different teams. McRae skated with the Newmarket Saints of the OJHL at the age of 17 before moving up to major junior hockey in 1983-84, first with Belleville and then Sudbury. Early in 1984-85 McRae was traded to the Oshawa Generals where he finished out his junior eligibility.
McRae was undrafted but was offered a free-agent contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs in October, 1985. He had a strong training camp and earned a position with the club's AHL affiliate in St. Catherines. In 59 games with the Saints, McRae quickly established a name for himself as a tough, aggressive player who always put the team first, including sticking up for teammates when the going got rough, as evidenced by his 233 minutes in penalties.
In 1987-88, McRae's hard work paid off with an eleven-game call-up to the Maple Leafs. Although he failed to record a point, he made his presence felt, spending 65 minutes in the penalty box, taking on the role of temporary enforcer and thus easing the burden of such players as Al Secord, who was looked upon more for his scoring exploits, but had often been left to assume the dual role in the absence of a noted policeman. McRae played another three games with Toronto in 1988-89.
McRae also played seven games in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings in the 1989-90 season, where he scored one goal for the only point of his career. He continued to play hockey through the 1991-92 season, retiring as a member of the IHL's Fort Wayne Komets.